Two robot heads.

“It's Just the Algorithm”

In 2016, I had some big ideas that required developing Twitter bots and decided to build an ebooks account as a sort of trial run. It came together much faster than I'd expected and I was able to switch to my other Twitter bot ideas within a few weeks.

Nothing is certain except Star Wars clothing.

— Robot MK (@robot_mk) February 11, 2016

Despite having worked very little on @robot_mk beyond the initial setup, it has been a constant presence in my online life since. People still find joy and entertainment from its tweets and frequently play along with their weird responses.

Wow you seem to get more relatable each month 🤔😂

— Kevin Gutowski (@kevgski) May 12, 2018

Even the quirks caused by “bugs” were fun, such as when it would repeat my tweets verbatim. Here, the bot turned one of my tweets into a sort of ouroboros.

@mknepprath pretty soon I'm going to start getting confused with which one of you is real

— Ben Lundsten (@benlundsten) September 1, 2016

It's not all fun and games, however. Sometimes the account seems to tweet veiled threats.

I might have an army of bots.

— Robot MK (@robot_mk) March 25, 2019

you leave Mars alone

— Michael Knepprath (@mknepprath) September 28, 2016

— Josh Wierschke (@JoshWWhat) October 8, 2020

While concerning, I can sleep soundly knowing that (despite the fact that I provide the data and wrote all of the code used to generate these tweets) this is a failure of the algorithm.

It's Just the Algorithm

The reason my bot sometimes tweets in a threatening manner has to do with the algorithm behind the bot, as the tweets are determined by an algorithm. The algorithm is what failed.


“[T]he Stanford vaccine algorithm failed to prioritize house staff.” − The Washington Post
Facebook representatives told NPR that the reason why some people did not see the march as trending had to do with the algorithm behind the feature. − NPR
“It's the algorithm.” − RAND
As it learns, some of its responses are inappropriate and indicative of the types of interactions some people are having with it.” − The Verge